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Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome is one of the greatest and most intriguing areas to study in history. Below are some of the most important terms, concepts, and historical figures of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire. Scroll for lesson plan ideas.
  • Republic - Form of government established in 509 BC after the Romans drove the last Etruscan monarch from power; Power rests with citizens who have the right to vote for their leaders; Early power struggles existed between patricians and plebeians.
  • Patricians - Aristocratic landowners that held most of the power in the early republic.
  • Plebeians - Majority of the population that consisted of farmers, artisans, merchants.
  • Twelve Tables - Written code of law displayed in the Roman forum (451 BC); All free citizens had right to protection of the law.
  • Legion - Military unit of 5,000 heavily armed infantry; All adult male citizens must serve.
  • Punic Wars - Series of wars against Carthage for the control of the western half of the Mediterranean Sea; Roman general Scipio out maneuvers Hannibal of Carthage in 202 BC. 
  • Triumvirate - Group of three rulers that ruled Rome following the collapse of the Republic for 10 years; Julius Caesar, Crassus (wealthy), and Pompey (general/Caesar's rival).
  • Julius Caesar - Popular general; Conquers Gaul; Defeats Pompey in Greece, Asia, Spain, and Egypt;  Appointed dictator for life by Senate in 44 BC; Assassinated on March 15, 44 BC in the senate chamer.
  • Second Triumvirate - Made up of Octavian, Mark Antony, and Lepidus.
  • Battle of Actium - Naval battle where Octavian (Augustus) defeats Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BC.
  • Augustus - Formerly Octavian; Most powerful emperor of the Roman Empire; Glorified Rome, established civil service, and stabilized the frontier.
  • Pax Romana - 200 years of Roman peace and prosperity.
  • Jesus of Nazareth - Born around AD 4 - 6; Teachings based on Judaism; Said to have performed miracles so many believed him to be the Messiah or the son of God; Main historical source consists of the first four books of the New Testament (Gospels).
  • Paul - Christian leader that wrote influential letters called epistles to groups of believers.
  • Christianity - Based on teachings of Jesus; Embraces all people; Offers personal relationship with loving God; Gave hope to powerless; Promised eternal life after death; Spreads easily because of the Pax Romana, however refusal to worship Roman gods leads to persecution.
  • Caligula and Nero - Bad emperors; Mentally ill, persecution of Christians, great fires; Empire still survives because of effective civil service.
  • Diaspora - Dispersal of the Jews from their homeland into exile.
  • Marcus Aurelius - Emperor that brought Rome to height of economic prosperity; Last emperor of the Pax Romana; wrote Meditations
  • Diocletian - Reforming Emperor that divided empire into West and East to make control more efficient.
  • Constantine - Reforming Emperor that embraces Christianity (Battle at Milvian Bridge/Edict of Milan) and moves capital to Constantinople (Byzantium) in the east.
  • Greco-Roman Culture - Mixture of Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman culture.
  • Colosseum - Opens AD 80; Great architectural achievement using the arch, dome, and concrete; A spectator can watch gladiators fight to the death, or watch Christians be devoured by lions, or see wild animals slaughtered.
  • Bas-relief - Roman sculptures that told stories to represent crowds of people.
  • Pompeii - Eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 preserves many great Roman works of art.
  • Virgil - Roman poet modeled works after Homer; Wrote the Aeneid.
  • Aqueducts - Used arches for support; Brought water into towns and cities.
  • Fall of Western Roman Empire - Know the political, economic, social, and military causes; the Eastern portion of the empire becomes the Byzantine Empire.

Ancient Rome Lesson Plans

Here are some tips and ideas for generating that perfect lesson plan for teaching ancient Rome.
  • Overview of Ancient Rome: Here are some important PowerPoint slides containing notes and images on the rise of the Roman Republic, Punic Wars, Fall of the Republic, Rise of the Roman Empire, Rise and Spread of Christianity, and contributions to Western Civilization.
  • Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:  First you need to buy the board game Jenga and a Sharpie marker. On each of the 54 wooden Jenga blocks, write down a different problem facing the Western Roman Empire (ex. Inflation, Vandals attack, Ostrogoths invade, Unemployment, Employing Mercenaries, etc) prior to the lesson. Draw a chart on the board titled "Fall of the Roman Empire" with the categories: Economic, Military, Political, Religious, Social. During the lesson, you will have students come up to the front one at a time to remove a Jenga block from the tower that represents the Roman Empire. Have the student read the problem on the block out loud before placing the block on the top of the tower. Write down the problem on the chart in the appropriate category while the students do the same in their notes. Repeat until the Jenga tower representing the Roman Empire collapses.  Most classes can pull out at least 20 blocks (problems) before the tower falls.  The teacher can read out the missed key problems if the tower falls really soon.